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A recent study by our researchers found that there are significant risks of adverse health events for veterans with PTSD who take multiple medications at once.

It’s common for veterans with PTSD and other diagnosed conditions to take multiple medications. This is known as polypharmacy. So common that our research found 77% of veterans with PTSD in the study were taking over five medications on average.

The results were concerning when it came to psychotropic medications (any drug that’s capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behaviour). 80% of veterans with PTSD in the study were being treated with two or more psychotropic medicines at once.

So, polypharmacy is common, but what are the risks?

The lead researcher on the study, GMRF’s Senior Research Fellow Dr Rebecca Mellor, says that psychotropic medications are commonly prescribed for the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

But the use of multiple medications can lead to adverse health events, such as drowsiness and confusion, respiratory depression, and postural instability, which can lead to falls, fractures, hospital admission, illness, and even death.

“This research highlights the importance of increasing awareness of the extent of polypharmacy – especially psychotropic polypharmacy – and potentially inappropriate drug combinations, and the need for improved medication review by prescribers,” said Dr Mellor.

What you can do to support your health

Director of Medical Services at Toowong Private Hospital, Dr Andrew Khoo, recommends requesting a list of your medications from your GP and asking these questions any time you are given a new prescription:

  1. What is this drug supposed to do?
  2. How will I know if it is working?
  3. What are the common side effects?
  4. What are the potential interactions with my existing medications?
  5. How will this drug interact with alcohol or other substances?

Dr Khoo is GMRF’s Psychiatric Advisor and provided his expert guidance on this research.

The information in this article is of a general nature. You should seek professional guidance from your healthcare providers before implementing any recommendations.